North Korea's rocket...gone in 81 seconds
April 13th, 2012
12:30 PM ET

North Korea's rocket...gone in 81 seconds

By Barbara Starr

New details emerged Friday about the failed launch of the North Korean rocket.  The rocket failed in the second stage of its flight, Pentagon spokesman George Little said Friday.

A different U.S. official told Security Clearance that the rocket failure happened 81 seconds into the flight, based on preliminary U.S. analysis.

The first stage successfully separated from the rocket before the failure, the U.S. official said. That first stage fell into the Yellow Sea approximately 165 kilometers (about 100 miles) west of Seoul, South Korea, according to a statement from U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command.

Based on the U.S. government information, it appears the first stage dropped "well east of the intended path," according to analyst David Wright from the Union of Concerned Scientists.

The U.S. are analyzing "precisely what happened along the trajectory," Little told reporters at the Pentagon on Friday.

"One possibility is that there was a guidance problem early on that caused the rocket to begin to veer from its path and that North Korea shut down the engines once that happened," Wright wrote on his blog, All Things Nuclear. "Whether this was the scenario, or whether there was a catastrophic failure of some kind, may become clear as more information emerges."

Wright writes that the short duration of the flight means the North Koreans would have gotten relatively little useful information from the launch that could help it advance its weapons program.

The flight lasted longer than the one in 2006, when the North Korean missile failed after 40 seconds in flight, but was shorter than the 2009 test, in which the rocket traveled 2,300 miles in several minutes before the third stage fell into the Pacific Ocean.

With the failure, the United States is now concerned that a suspected underground nuclear test could come “sooner rather than later,” a U.S. official said, because the United States believes leader Kim Jong-Un needs to show some strength.

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